Assad regime says conflict has reached stalemate, plans to call for ceasefire
Syria's deputy PM tells The Guardian that neither side is strong enough to tip the balance in the two-year civil war.
Fighting between Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces and the opposition has reached a stalemate, and the regime plans on calling for a ceasefire at an upcoming conference in Geneva, Syria's deputy prime minister has told the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper.
In the interview published Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said that neither the opposition nor the government is strong enough to tip the balance in the conflict, which has raged for the past two years, and led to the loss of more than 100,000 lives.
"Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side," the newspaper cited him as saying. "This zero balance of forces will not change for a while."
Jamil,who told the newspaper his comments in the interview represented the government' position, also said that the country's economy has suffered heavily as a result of the civil war.
If Syria's rebel forces were to okay a ceasefire, it would have to be "under international observation," the newspaper cited Jamil as saying. Monitors of UN peacekeepers from "friendly or neutral countries" could fill that role, he said.
The upcoming conference in Geneva on Syria's future, is dubbed Geneva 2. The first was in June last year. Syria's opposition forces leaders have said they won't attend the conference unless Assad quits his post.
Jamil told the Guardian what Assad's regime plans propose at the upcoming meet: "An end to external intervention, a ceasefire and the launching of a peaceful political process in a way that the Syrian people can enjoy self-determination without outside intervention and in a democratic way."
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday it was essential that a Russia-U.S. deal on eradicating Syria's chemical weapons arsenal be enforced and that the UN Security Council must act on it next week.
"The Security Council must be prepared to act next week," Kerry told reporters. "It is vital for the international community to stand up and speak out in the strongest possible terms about the importance of enforcible action to rid the world of Syria's chemical weapons."
Envoys from the five big UN powers are meeting in New York before the UN General Assembly next week to discuss a plan to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control.
Russia and the United States brokered the deal last week to avoid possible U.S. military strikes. Under the deal, Syrian President Bashar Assad would account for his chemical weapons within a week and see them destroyed by the middle of next year.
Kerry said there was little doubt that the August 21 gas attack on civilians outside Damascus was the work of Assad's forces and not of the opposition.
Russia, which holds veto power in the Security Council, has said there is no proof that Assad's forces were responsible and denounced findings of a UN report that confirmed that the nerve gas sarin was used in the attack.
"This fight about Syria's chemical weapons is not a game. It is real. It is important," Kerry added.